Many readers may be familiar with Ibrahim Moustafa’s work as the artist for the Esiner nominated series “High Crimes;” Ibrahim now embarks on his writing debut with his new series “Jaeger” released by Stela Books. Ibrahim is pulling double duty as both writer and artist on the series which is a World World II period piece about a spy hunting down Nazis. This first chapter of the series is now up on the Stela app free to readers.
We at Multiversity were able to correspond with Ibrahim about the series, tacking writing duties for the first time, research, and working in the digital medium for a second time. A huge thanks to Ibrahim for taking the time to answer our questions. Read the interview below and an exclusive look at the next chapter in the series. Look for “Jaeger” out on the Stela app now.
Thanks for taking the time to answers some questions for us Ibrahim! For readers might of missed the previews for the series, what is “Jaeger?”
Ibrahim Moustafa: Thank YOU.
“Jaeger” is about a French-Algerian spy who is haunted by the torture he endured in a Nazi prison camp during WWII. After the war, he’s disillusioned by the loss of his job, the escape of so many war criminals and the lack of effort to pursue them. Hell-bent on revenge against his captors, he hunts down as many Nazis as he can find on his own until a former colleague approaches him with a sanctioned mission to find and eliminate Nazi escapees with falsified death certificates. In his mission for revenge he’s faced with trying to find redemption before he loses himself to his crusade, potentially becoming like the very monsters he hunts.
The series takes place in a time period that has been covered a lot in a lot of different mediums. What makes it a setting you wanted to visit and tell this story in?
IM: The World War II era was such a terrible and fascinating time in the history of the world, and something I’ve been intrigued by for most of my life. It’s very fertile ground for storytelling, and this was territory that I hadn’t seen explored in this way before, particularly in the comics medium. Everyone knows that the Nazis lost, but people are less aware about what happened to them after the war, and just how many of men guilty of so many terrible atrocities went on to live full lives in different parts of the world. In learning about it myself, it seemed the perfect scenario for a WWII era spy story. It was also a silly way for me to cathartically right a few of history’s wrongs, I suppose.
Dialog pace and cadence is super important in a spy/thriller style story and I really enjoyed your approach in the first chapter. How difficult/important was it for you when finding your voice and rhythm for the series?
As a newer writer, I didn’t want to overwrite, so I immediately took narration/inner monologue off of the table for myself. I also like to tell as much of the story through the visuals as I can and the Stela format, in my experience, tends to work better without too many words in a panel.
It was also important to tell the story economically in the space provided, in a rhythm that worked well in a vertical scroll format. It needed to move fast enough in some places to complement the quieter, incremental espionage moments of the story, so I was trying to strike a balance there, as well.
How has the experience been with this series as both writer and artist especially working with a new presentation style of the medium like Stela has? I enjoyed the flashbacks that transitioned from similarly laid out panels, is visually storytelling like that something that is easier to get across doing it all yourself?
IM: It’s been a really great experience. I hadn’t written anything for myself in years, so tapping back into that part of my brain was really fun. There’s nothing like sitting down at the keyboard and finding a creative groove where ideas are just falling out of your fingertips and you can’t type fast enough to keep up.Continued below
With regards to the Stela format, because it doesn’t allow for panels to exceed the width of the phone/tablet screen, I had to step outside of my normal storytelling/problem solving instincts and try different approaches to panels. All in all, it made me a much stronger storyteller, which I’m very grateful for.
Visually, I find it much easier to write something that I’m turning into visuals myself because I tend to picture what the panel/page will look like while I’m writing it. So I kind of “see” it as I’m writing it, as opposed to trying to interpret what someone else was thinking.
With it being a period piece and you handling both writing and art duties is there a lot of extra research going on for you?
IM: YES. Haha. This involved quite a bit of research, and it can be very difficult to find what a place across the world looked like 70 years ago. Fortunately, there was a book I referenced heavily for researching the story (Hunting Evil by Guy Walters) that was available in audio form. So I was able to listen to it while drawing my other work and pause to take notes. That helped a lot, as drawing comics is a very time intensive job in and of itself.
Hopefully people are familiar with your wonderful work on Eisner nominated series “High Crimes.” “Jaeger” showcases a very different style than that series. What has been the biggest differences in your approach to the series?
IM: I’ve been studying a lot of Alex Toth, Darwyn Cooke and Mike Mignola recently – their economy of line is incredible. Those guys found a way to put the least number of marks on the paper possible to perfectly communicate the images and storytelling. I wanted to try to apply some of what I’d learned from studying their work into my own, and I’d been wanting to try my hand at a style like that; something more paired down from my regular work which involves a lot of rendering and textures. Jaeger being a period piece presented in a panel-to-panel format seemed like the perfect venue for it.
In an effort to make creating this book more manageable on top of my regular monthly comics gigs, I worked a lot smaller than I typically do on this—about half the size of my regular work. So a style with less detail was necessary to pull that off, especially since I was writing and coloring the book as well.
For readers who have read the first chapter or looking for that extra push, what can they expect from the series going forward?
IM: The first installment sets the stage and ends with Morel (the protagonist) embarking on his mission. With the formal introduction out of the way, the rest of the series follows that mission. There are disguises, stealthy espionage sequences, dangerous situations, and a few twists/surprises. Hopefully everything people love from spy stories!